Wednesday, 27 June 2018
I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss with the Minister of State an excellent project for Roscommon University Hospital and the western region. As I said before, the medical rehabilitation unit is one of three major capital developments planned at Roscommon University Hospital. The other two are an endoscopy unit which is open and extremely busy and a hospice care centre that will be funded by Mayo Roscommon Hospice Foundation. We have also agreed to fund the staffing of the unit. There is a clear demand for a medical rehabilitation facility in the west. Almost one quarter of patients treated at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire normally reside in the HSE West region as there are no dedicated rehabilitation units in the western region. As it stands, the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire is the only comprehensive rehabilitation facility in the Republic of Ireland for patients with physical and cognitive impairments. As we all know, the demand for its services continues to rise. Clearly, there is a need to meet that demand. I am delighted that the National Rehabilitation Hospital has strongly endorsed the €7.85 million project planned for Roscommon University Hospital.
What we are looking at initially is the development of a ten-bed inpatient ward on a greenfield site on the Roscommon University Hospital campus. Another ten beds are also expected to be delivered on a phased basis into the future. The unit will operate as a satellite centre under the auspices of the National Rehabilitation Hospital and relieve pressure on existing services. It will also allow patients to be treated in their own community. The need for the facility has never been so important and today I am raising some concerns that the project may not be moving as fast as we had hoped. My understanding last December was that the design team for the project would be appointed in the first quarter of this year. However, six months down the road, the tender documents to appoint a design team have not even been issued and I am wondering why there appears to be a delay in the process. My strong belief is the design team should be well in place by now in order to move this important project along to the planning stage. I look forward to the Minister of State shedding some light on my query.
I thank the Senator for giving me the opportunity to update the House on this matter. A Programme for a Partnership Government places a particular focus on a number of key programmes and strategies, including publishing a plan for advancing neurorehabilitation services in the community. The national policy and strategy for the provision of neurorehabilitation services in Ireland for the period 2011 to 2015 made a number of recommendations for services for people with rehabilitation needs. The strategy also covered a range of supports, including clinical; therapeutic; social; vocational and community supports.
The redevelopment of the National Rehabilitation Hospital is well under way and it is expected to be operational in 2020. Funding for phases I and II of this major redevelopment project was included in the Government’s Project Ireland 2040 policy initiative, as part of an overall €10.9 billion strategic investment in health services. It will be a significant enhancement of rehabilitation services and have a direct and significant impact on patient recovery by providing an optimal ward and therapeutic environment for patient treatment. This will enable staff to deliver optimal quality care and treatment in a facility which affords dignity, respect and privacy to all.
Roscommon University Hospital is a model 2 hospital within the Saolta University Health Care Group. It provides a significant range of hospital services for patients in the region, including extended day surgery, certain acute medicine services and local injuries services. It also provides a wide array of diagnostic services, including endoscopy, laboratory medicine, point of care testing and radiology, as well as specialist rehabilitation medicine and palliative care. It plays an essential role as part of the Saolta group of hospitals and will continue to do so in the future. We know that future growth in healthcare will be in the areas of chronic disease management and day surgery, diagnostics and rehabilitation. The activity levels of model 2 hospitals such as Roscommon University Hospital will continue to increase in the coming years as they specialise in providing these services to meet the needs of their local populations.
In 2016 the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, announced the development of a specialist rehabilitation unit at Roscommon University Hospital to design and planning stage, in association with the National Rehabilitation Hospital. The provision of the unit is included in the national development plan, published as part of the Ireland 2040 initiative earlier this year, and will deliver 20 beds and therapy suite accommodation on completion. The HSE has advised that the procurement process for the design team is at the final stage and that the appointment of a design team is imminent. It also advises that the hospital is experiencing traffic congestion and parking difficulties, for which solutions will need to be addressed as part of the planning application process.
Apart from the employment which will be created during the construction phase, it is also important to say that once the rehabilitation unit becomes fully operational, it will create 25 jobs initially and up to 50 when all phases are complete. When all of these positions come onstream, more than 400 staff will be working in the hospital which is busier and safer than ever. However, I really believe we need to get the rehabilitation unit up and running. As the Minister of State said, the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris, announced the development of a specialist rehabilitation unit in 2016, which had been agreed to in 2011 with the then Minister, Senator James Reilly. It is also included in the national development plan.
There is something fundamentally wrong in HSE Estates in Galway. I am sick and tired of coming here to find that everything planned for Roscommon is being held up in Galway. Is it that it does not have enough staff or is there a more serious matter, to the effect that it will do anything to stop development at Roscommon University Hospital? I want an investigation. I am in Sligo and have no problem with the HSE in the north west. I have had a problem with HSE Estates in Galway in respect of Roscommon University Hospital and will not put up with it any more. I want an investigation into why these things are being delayed. Two years ago the Minister announced that the project would get the go-ahead. We are still waiting on HSE Estates which is apart from the Department of Health. This has gone on too long. I know that the rehabilitation unit will go ahead in Roscommon, but I am concerned that we are not getting the attention we need and deserve.
I appreciate the Senator's frustration and understand his commitment to Roscommon University Hospital, as the history books will verify. Any objective analysis would confirm his passion as a public representative about the future development of Roscommon University Hospital and the risks he took in his political and personal life for the betterment of the hospital and his belief in its future. That is not just commendable, it also gives him authority above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to public representations. The very least he deserves is the answers he is seeking. I appreciate that a word like "imminent" does not tell him, me or the House when exactly the design team will be appointed. I will certainly take it on myself, on the Senator's behalf, to make contact with HSE Estates in Galway to get a more detailed, comprehensive and realistic timeframe, understandable to all of us, for when exactly the design team will be appointed and the next steps thereafter. I will come back to the Senator on the matter.